Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Essex Walks: Greensted and Ongar footpaths

Last Saturday I drove to Greensted where I angle-parked the car by the ancient Saxon church.

After visiting the allegedly oldest wooden church in the world, as a result of dendrological analysis,

 I walked along the footpaths in sweet, uneventful countryside, beloved by the late poet laureate Sir John Betjeman, to Ongar.

What a beautiful day it was!

Thorndon Hall is just about visible from the Essex Way

The privately run railway was operating this Saturday.

To be continued, in part two.

At Chipping Ongar there are the remains of a motte and bailey castle,
and a footpath lead me to an eleventh century church, close to the centre of the town.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Essex Walks: Moreton footpaths

After a tasty lunch at the White Hart Inn in Moreton,

 I walked to the parish church of St. Mary the Virgin,

 where my wife had parked the car. From there I went along the delightful footpaths, passing the primary school,

 a lovely fishing lake with a solitary swan, plus a few ducks and a fisherman,

 and walking by attractive farmland,

and tall trees and thick bushes that made effective windbreaks for the fields.

Eventually we arrived back at the parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Moreton.

The church was open, to my delight and I spent some happy, blessed moments there.

Afghanistan: war, waste and weaknesses

It is sickening to learn that Taliban forces have taken areas of Afghanistan that British troops fought so hard to defend. Over a hundred soldiers died between 2006 and 2010. Sangin has fallen to these Muslim militants. (We will probably be told this has nothing to do with Islam.) British soldiers who gave so much must feel terrible to hear how bad it is in Afghanistan these days. So little was accomplished at such a great cost.

Our politicians lied to us, and they failed to provide our troops with the appropriate resources. And millions of tax payers' money wasted! It could have been spent here in the UK on the NHS.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

No Christians left in Iraq?

It was reported in ipaper today that Canon Andrew White (known as the Vicar of Baghdad), whom I heard at the Deo Gloria lecture recently, said that the future of Christianity looks bleak and no Christians will be left in Iraq.

This statement seems at odds with his views expressed at the Deo Gloria lecture when Canon White talked about his school in Baghdad where he was a surrogate father to children now lovingly brought according to Christian principles. He seemed to be appealing for funds to run this Christian school and to engage in constructive conversations with radical Muslims who respected his uncompromising and overtly Christian position, far from the usual wishy-washy liberalism of inter-faith dialogue.

Some views on religion, culture and faith in the Islamic world are frankly confusing. It is often said that terrorism and radical extremism have no place in any religion. Yet it seems quite clear that jihadists believe and hold religious opinions which are based on Quranic texts, the Hadith and the example of Muhammad. These jihadists would claim to be sincere followers of Islam, inspired by Muslim clerics and scholars versed in traditional Islamic schools of jurisprudence. It is hard to separate the jihadist ideology and political philosophy from their religion, their deeply held views and theology.

People in the West have been accused of islamophobia when they express concerns about female genital mutilation, the imposition of sharia law, and the subjugation and iniquitous treatment of women in various ways in Islamic states and by Muslim men.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Come on Nigerians! You can sort out your problems and starvation crisis

I have been discussing Nigeria with my fellow church member and dear friend who is a world authority on neo-natal concerns. He travels often to Nigeria, his homeland, but he rarely see Christians, missionaries and evangelists in some of the areas where he works with premature births and incubators.

He has exhorted the people of Nigeria to stop begging, for he firmly believes that Nigeria has the resources to eliminate the starvation in the north east region.  There are wealthy, prosperous Nigerian evangelists who minister by means of private jets and expensive limousines. There are many Nigerian Christians in the UK who have embraced a prosperity gospel. Both these groups have done very little for the poor, the needy, those who are neglected in certain areas of Nigeria.

My friend has encountered widespread corruption at many levels in Nigeria, and he says that Christians are sometimes very much part of the problem rather than the solution. He knows.

When some people ask him for a bribe to get things done, his response is: how many babies are you prepared to let die, because that will happen if I paid bribes?  They are asking for money that is designated to save the lives of premature babies. Some of these corrupt officials are, therefore, murderers!

Nigeria has many resources, but corruption is hampering the use of them and talented individuals from providing the solution.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Mike Eastman: in memoriam

Somehow the original text has disappeared into cyberspace. It has been deleted, but I have attempted to write my tribute again.

Friends, family and members of Romford Baptist Church with others in the Christian community are mourning the death of Mike Eastman, who died last week at Parkside, Main Road, Romford.

Mike will be remembered for his service in the Kingdom of God as a deacon, school teacher, youth worker. authority on youth ministry, leading light in Frontier Youth Trust/ Scripture Union, conference speaker and writer on evangelistic initiatives, particularly urban and inner city mission.

Mike loved cricket as a player, batting for the first eleven at school (Royal Liberty, where he was headboy and games captain) and Brentwood. He played for Romford Baptist, when they occasionally had a team. I think he was still coaching boys into his eighties at the Royal Liberty School. Mike supported Essex CCC, and loved to watch them at Chelmsford, and was looking forward to seeing them this coming season, with his grandson, in the top division of the county championships. I did tease him about the superiority of Middlesex, but he remembered the glory days of Essex under the captaincy of Graham Gooch, when Essex slaughtered Middlesex, under Gatting. (Yes, the days of the England G force: Gooch, Gower and Gatting.) Mike's father, in fact, played for Essex CCC.

I have happy memories of conversations with Mike, going back to the 1970s. He gave me helpful advice and encouragement when I was a deacon and youth leader at Harold Hill Evangelical Church.
Mike steered me away from premillennialism, especially fanciful views of Hal Lindsey and the secret rapture fiction. We had some interesting talks about eschatology, and he recommended works by his brother in law ( Dr S. Travis) on the subject. Mike was always helpful when it came to sharing views on Christian literature. Well, he did work for Scripture Union!

I will be attending, DV, the thanksgiving service for the life of Michael Eastman at Romford Baptist Church on Saturday afternoon, 8 April, 2017.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Hornchurch Hidden Gems, far from the madding crowd

Some people park in the area around Sainsbury's and Iceland. They rush off to do their shopping, with little time to stand and stare. Little time for God in prayer. What is this life if full of care, we have not time for God in prayer?

Langtons is now linked to Fielders, so people can walk by ancient oaks and young ash trees from Boscombe Avenue and Cromer Road into Langtons and into the cultural centre of Hornchurch, right by the Queens Theatre, and Fairkytes Arts Centre.

Spring is in the air. Langtons Gardens look lovely.

And it is a hidden gem of a short walk from the little woodland area by the cricket pitch and then into Langtons.

 It is a lovely place of peace, though I have sometimes been disturbed by aggressive barking dogs with unpleasant handlers. Thankfully it is rare, but some owners allow their pets to poo all over the cricket pitch, which has been a sort of dog toilet. A most unpleasant experience for cricketers and council workers.

Personally I preferred the wilder woodland area in Fielders, but it is more accessible now and more people are enjoying their morning strolls across by the cricket pitch and into Langtons en route to Hornchurch town centre.

The gardens are splendid at all times of the year. The recent improvements reveal a lot of hard work and effort.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Anthony Taylor: Yet Another Refereeing Howler

Anthony Taylor made a dreadful decision during the Swansea v. Burnley football match today, which was seen on tonight's Match of the Day by millions. Despite protests by players who saw what happened, Taylor awarded a penalty to Burnley when a Burnley player had handled the ball. Bizarre? Gary Lineker said so.

It's high time video technology is used to stop this incompetence by referees. We should introduce play back, video referral immediately.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Vanity Fair, Bunyan and the chief lord of this fair.

What does Vanity Fair mean to you? Do you think of a glossy magazine, or a post Oscar party, or perhaps an allegorical place in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress?

This Friday the March issue of Vanity Fair, the glossy magazine, will feature Emma Watson, who is well known for her role as Hermione of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Miss Watson is on the front cover. Pictures of her posing virtually topless have already been released for tabloid consumption. Is it somewhat odd that her enthusiastic feminism and her previously expressed disdain for the fame game have now succumbed to the cash and carnal pleasures of appearing in Vanity Fair? Perhaps not, as it could be argued that Miss Watson is attempting to distance herself from the child star tag, and now she wants to be sexy and alluring. A beauty with brains.  A 21st century Emma Peel, combining intelligence with man appeal. (She graduated from the Ivy League prestigious Brown University, and her cosmetic choices are also establishing her adult image.)

After the Oscars in Hollywood and among the post ceremony parties, the Vanity Fair party, held in Beverly Hills, is considered to be an event for A list personalities, where the glamorous and the glowing movies stars, with the movers and shakers, gather. I imagine that some wannabees and fame seekers would sell their souls to attend. I wonder how much aspiring actors and actresses would be prepared to do and how far they would be prepared to go in order to gain fame.

John Bunyan, my Baptist hero, who brought Vanity Fair into the stream of literature, culture and theological reflection, had a totally different view. It was, for him, a place of temptation, but also degradation, declension, where its citizens were servants of Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, who were on their seductive broad way to destruction and damnation. The chief lord of Vanity Fair's friends would, no doubt be honoured (honored in the US) in Hollywood: Lord Carnal Delight, the Lord Luxurious, the Lord Desire of Vain Glory, Lord Lechery and Sir Having Greedy. At the Vanity Fair party we would probably have no trouble in finding the following contemporaries: Mr Love-lust, Mr Live-loose and Mr Liar.

Bunyan did not take the easy path of compromise and comfort. He refused to stop preaching the Gospel without a licence or the legal authority. He therefore broke the law, but his conscience and faith led him to obey a much higher law and follow a higher authority. Bunyan suffered imprisonment and financial hardship, though he was allowed to work and write in Bedford Jail.

Today he is famous, but his fame does not rest on vanity or ephemeral fancies. His writings are wonderful works of eternal quality. They would bring him a fortune today.

Jesus posed the vital questions, questions of eternal significance.

What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?
What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Who is the chief lord of your fair?
If you are going to the fair, then beware.


River Stour